The recent departure of Josh Holmes from 343 Industries has launched a fan-base discussion on the future of Halo, not that the discussion has ever stopped. Josh Holmes departed 343 with a friendly goodbye, acknowledging the fun times that he has spent working on Halo: “I have loved every moment here on Halo but I find myself drawn to new horizons. This month I’m leaving 343 Industries and [am] excited for my next adventure to pursue independent game development.” Chris Lee has taken over as Studio Head for Halo 5, spearheading the development and deployment of all remaining Halo 5 DLC (maps, loot, playlist, etc.).
The recent Halo 15th Anniversary celebration teased Halo 6 content, but little to nothing is known beyond that a team at 343 has begun work on the game. The Halo 5 multiplayer has left the fan-base extremely satisfied, with yours truly investing almost 400 hours into. Halo 5 has received praised across the entire gaming industry for incorporating a genuine and innovative FPS competitive experience while remaining faithful to what makes Halo unique and special.
Unfortunately, the Halo 5: Guardians campaign left much to be desired. A complex and broken plot and underdeveloped characters left us wanting so much more. The critical flaw of the campaign wasn’t the misleading marketing campaign or [SPOILER] “villainizing” of the beloved Cortana. That wasn’t it. The campaign story suffered from (1) not enough Master Chief play time, (2) a protagonist without a personality we cared about (Locke), (3) the underuse of an excellent voice acting cast (esp. Nathan Fillion), and (4) a story that felt disconnected and relied heavily on background information not available to the average gamer. The ending to Halo 5 wasn’t the problem, but actually hopeful and exciting. The path that 343 built throughout the campaign was broken and full of gaps and holes for the average player consuming the story.
Halo 6 (which I have predicted as Halo 6: Alliances) can be a saving grace for the Halo 5 storyline. Be prepared for some Halo 5 spoilers, in case that wasn’t already obvious.
Halo 6 should not be a Mass Effect game. Let’s get that out of the way. Bioware’s Mass Effect series is a paragon of excellent science fiction and military space fiction storytelling. Even though Halo 6 should not try to be Mass Effect, it can learn a few lessons from it.
- Halo 6 should invest into helping fill-in story knowledge gaps.
There are many ways that 343 can achieve this. By developing exciting, narrative, and thorough cut scenes and by including an in-game Halo encyclopedia (audio-narrated please), 343 can help non-hardcore fans (and hardcore ones) feel like they properly understand the state of the galaxy.
Halo 5 did a sorry job at explaining the purpose of Fireteam Osiris, Blue Team, Spartan-IVs, the remaining Spartan-IIs, and other organizations like the Swords of Sanghelios. This information was hard to track even to a devoted fan like me. 343 needs to setup Halo players for success, instead of confusion. Too easy.
- Halo 6 needs to clarify the state of the Halo galaxy by connecting the expanded canon and the games.
Halo 5: Guardians completely ignored long-standing storylines developed through the Halo novels and Dark Horse graphic novels. The relationship between Dr. Halsey and the UNSC is nowhere near “harmonized” at the end of canon graphic novels. However, all of Halsey’s issues seem to evaporate overnight in Halo 5. What? Yeah, that wasn’t good. Also, Commander Palmer, who plays a huge role in the graphic novels, plays an insignificant role in the game.
The Halo 6 teams needs to make tough decisions over which characters need to die, which storylines need to survive, and what the heck the state of the galaxy is. What happened to the Insurrectionists in Halo 5, by the way? This won’t be an easy process, but Disney had to do it with Star Wars—the canon was headed in a thousand directions. Halo needs to stay ahead of the story and make the cuts in needs to make for clarity’s sake.
- Halo 6 can improve the Halo 5 multiplayer system without breaking it.
Halo 5’s multiplayer is close to perfect—seriously. This is one area where Halo 6 could go backwards by trying to change too much. I’m sure some Halo fans don’t like Halo 5’s MP. You are in the minority. The opinion across the Halo fan base and the gaming universe is that Halo 5 is one of the best Halo multiplayer systems, if not the best.
What are areas for improvement in multiplayer? Warzone could be revamped to appeal to more players, Breakout could return to its original version and not the unwanted new playlist which the community greatly dislikes, and Firefight could be modified with community input. Changes are good, but just don’t break it. Halo 5 multiplayer is great.
- Halo 6 needs to deploy a more dynamic campaign without abandoning the classic “Halo experience.”
343 would be wise to avoid a heavily linear FPS campaign. Halo Combat Evolved was exciting because, in some ways, it wasn’t too heavily linear. Some linear elements will be necessary; however, games like Destiny have shown us that campaign missions can be fun to replay if they avoid extreme linearity. Don’t make Halo into a new Destiny, but 343 needs to make the Halo campaign more fun to replay again and again. A stronger storyline would aid this development process.
What could benefit a new Halo 6 campaign? More open campaign areas with non-sequential objectives, alternative ways to complete an objective or mission while staying true to the general canon, more streamlined coop accessibility modes, allowing for some “player choices,” and vehicle and weapon diversity to allow for multiple ways to kill all the bad guys.
Halo set the standard for FPS campaigns 15 years ago. It’s about time to set a new high standard. Halo 6 provides an excellent opportunity to lead the way.
Halo 6 could be a great game, but it could also leave us with another bitter taste. The Halo legacy demands not just a great multiplayer, but also great campaign dynamics and storyline. The Halo universe provides a lot of tools, options, and potential to build a great game—343 needs to be bold enough to exploit all that Halo has to offer.
The balance between being innovation while remaining faithful to the Halo legacy isn’t an easy one to create. However, no one said it meant to be easy, and 343 Industries has been entrusted with a great franchise, so let us hope that its leadership is up to the challenge of honoring the Master Chief.